|Andy stared out
of the car windscreen, through the sleeting rain, at the
rear lights of the car in front of them muttering, "Bloody
Rubbing his eyes, his passenger dropped his head against the back of the seat, trying to ignore his aching leg. "They've been digging this road up forever."
"It's not usually this bad."
"We're not usually travelling home during rush hour. Anyway, stop trying to change the subject."
Which was Ellie. And Peter's failed marriage.
Andy sighed, "You know, she told me once I was the problem."
Peter glanced at him. "You are," he pointed out with a wry smile.
Looking at him for a moment, Andy corrected, "Not back then." A strong gust of wind rocked the car gently. "I didn't mean to break up your marriage, Peter."
The younger man stared at him for a second longer then turned and looked out of the car window. To Andy's relief, the traffic started to move.
"Listen, Sunbeam," he hoped his attempt at a new subject would be successful the second time around. "I've been thinking. We should get you back behind the wheel."
Peter shook his head. "I can't drive for at least a year and that's after the seizures stop - if they stop. You know that."
"Aye, I do. But the last time you drove a car you crashed it. The driving school has a test track and cars with dual control. I think it might be a good idea for you to have a session or two."
He thought about that for a moment. "I actually keeping meaning to ask... but I'm scared of what the answer might be." He met Andy's frown with one of his own. "Isn't being able to drive a pre-requisite of the job?"
"In English, Sunbeam."
"Can I still do what I do, being as someone has to chauffeur me from pillar to post?" He winced inwardly. "No pun intended."
"No pun taken. And yes, you can. Don't worry about it. No one's going to say anything because they know they'd have to say it to me first. Besides, we value your brain, Petal, not yer driving skills." Finally getting through the temporary traffic lights, Dalziel put his foot down and overtook the Mini doing twenty in front of him. "I had another thought too, although I don't know if it's at full bloom yet."
"You'd better watch all this," Peter jibed in an attempt to lighten the mood. "Too much thinking outside of work can be bad for the health."
"Very funny, Peter Kay."
He laughed, turning to Andy, feigning shock. "How do you know who Peter Kay is?"
"I took the lovely Dr Richmond to see him in Manchester."
"When?" Peter's tone was as much of a surprise to him as it was to Andy.
"Hey, now. No getting jealous." He winked. "It was before you came on the scene."
"I've always been on the scene."
"Aye, and it didn't stop you shagging everything in a skirt, did it?"
"I didn't shag all of them." He couldn't believe he was defending himself. "After Alison I kind of lost interest a bit."
Ah yes, Alison. The good doctor who'd dated Peter to distract him from the case and prevent him from working out she was as guilty as hell.
"I've got a theory if you want to hear it."
"Yes, you do. We both chase women we know are unobtainable." He pulled the Jaguar to a stop at the next set of blissfully permanent traffic lights.
Glancing over at Peter, Andy asked, "Did I imagine what happened at the zoo that evening?"
Peter looked away, coming quickly down off the offensive, glancing out of the window at white headlights and sodium streetlights blurred in the streaming rain. "No."
"That's a relief. I might be having a mid-life crisis but I hope I'm not losing my mind too."
"A mid-life crisis?" He was sceptical. "I didn't notice a sports car parked outside the house this morning."
"Can't afford a Ferrari. But I have booked myself a course of aromatherapy massages, lost two stone, cut down to ten a day from forty and started fancying my young inspector. That's a mid-life crisis in anyone's book, Sunbeam."
Peter was quiet for the next few miles. Andy knew why, and knew the exact question that was coming next. He waited for it, despite the need to reassure the man who was the centre of his life now.
Ironic, then, that the question Peter asked as they turned into Worthington Road was, "Is that all this is?"
There was no doubting what he meant by 'this'. Andy didn't reply until he'd pulled the Jaguar up behind Peter's beached Audi.
He stopped the engine and turned to his partner.
"Do I really need to say it isn't?"
"No." Peter reached for the door. "Sorry."
Getting out of the car, following Peter up the path to the door of his own house, amused that he was again treating the place as home, Andy said, "I never told you what else I'd been thinking."
"The idea that hasn't yet reached full bloom?"
"Aye." Pushing the key into the Yale lock, Andy turned it. "Thought you might want to move in. Permanently, like." He left Peter standing on the doorstep staring at the open door, looking like he'd only just realised he didn't live here permanently already.
A couple of painkillers and half a bottle of wine later, Peter was feeling a lot more relaxed. Lying on the sofa with his feet up on Andy's legs reading the files on the workers being employed by Cashman at the bypass construction site, he was also feeling a great deal more secure.
Andy was watching the news, waiting for the local reports to come on. He liked to watch the background activity - said you could often learn everything from watching people who didn't realise they were being watched.
Peter agreed wholeheartedly with the theory however he also held his own firm belief that people with something to hide were usually on their best behaviour in close proximity of television cameras.
But he was perfectly happy to lie there reading the various reports and files with Andy gently rubbing his leg through his jeans.
It had been aching all day.
He'd made a real mess of it in the accident; a compound fracture of his lower leg, both bones broken with the tibia exposed. He was glad he'd been unconscious, glad he couldn't remember the aftermath of hitting the pillar - the fire crew cutting him from the wreckage of the hire car he'd driven to Leeds and back in a day, or the nightmare Andy had endured at the hospital that night.
They'd pinned the bones back in place at first, surrounding it in a brace. Then later, when he was discharged, he'd had a light plaster cast put on. Finally, after a couple of long, painful months, it had healed, leaving several hairless scars it upset him to look at.
And after a long day on his feet, it hurt like hell.
Andy's touch was incredibly gentle and he seemed to know exactly how to massage the muscle around the break site in order to relax the whole leg.
It was bliss.
When the news finished, Andy switched off the television and Peter closed the files, dumping them on the carpet.
They sat in a comfortable silence, regarding one another for a couple of minutes before Peter reached down and wrapped his fingers around Andy's left hand. With a smile, Andy turned his hand in the warm grasp and rubbed his fingertips lightly over the palm, subtly teasing.
"I owe you, Andy," Peter eventually said, voice quiet, "without you, these last few months...."
"Don't be daft. And for fuck sake, Peter, don't do any of this," Dalziel squeezed his hand firmly to affirm what 'this' was, "out of gratitude. I'd rather you bought me a meal at some fancy restaurant."
Peter looked at him like he'd lost his marbles. "You can't be serious?!"
"Well, not too fancy."
"I mean about... this! You don't honestly think I'd be here because of some perceived debt?"
Sometimes Peter's almost poetic manner of speaking bemused him. "Honestly, no. But I can't work out what it is you see in me. You've had countless dates in as many years. Your ex-wife wanted you back. Why choose me?"
Peter considered his answer. Not that he didn't know why. He'd just never tried to put it into words before now. He spoke to their joined hands on Andy's leg. "You're the other half of me." When the expected retort didn't materialise, he continued, "I feel whole when I'm with you. Loved, needed, wanted... all those... feelings I never got from Ellie."
Cautiously, he glanced up. Andy was nodding slowly. "And likely it's enough, Peter. But it's not everything. I meant what I said, about you moving in. Whatever happens. I'm just not sure how far you want to go with this."
The silence that fell gathered momentum quickly and nothing else was said before Peter let go of Andy's hand and stood, leaving the room without so much as a 'good night'.
Andy rubbed his face with his hands and sighed a long, meaningful sigh. This had been going on for months! He loved Peter and he wouldn't ever deny it but he wasn't an angel and he definitely wasn't used to a life of celibacy.
Not that he could or would push his previously full-time heterosexual inspector into doing anything he didn't want to do. Chances were Peter was still trying to wrap his mind around just kissing his boss, never mind anything more physical, anything that would hammer home the fact that they were both men.
Andy was a little worried that Peter hadn't completely admitted that to himself. He was basking in the feeling of being loved and cherished, maybe in a way he never had been, and for Peter's battered, stressed-out system that was more than enough. He wasn't even sure if Peter's body had even considered sex since the accident. It was likely that all its reserves were gone and it was just about able to keep Peter up and working through the day, never mind any extra-curricular activity at night.
And that was all okay. He loved him enough for it to be okay.
For Andy, Peter was the prize. He was his future and everything in it. Before the crash he'd been working on the upper echelons of the force to get Peter promoted, get him his own team and work side by side with him. Now he was back at work, Andy would start to push again. Peter deserved that and more.
But moreover, now he had the memories of watching a head injury slowly killing his partner, he hadn't the heart to keep up the hard-hearted reputation around Peter that he was famous for.
'You're going soft, Andy,' the ACC had told him when he'd reported back on Peter's medical status and told her Peter couldn't drive so he'd make sure either he, Spike or Wieldy were around to play taxi driver.
But how could he keep up the pointless bickering when he knew now without a doubt just how much Peter meant to him? How deeply in love he was.
Scratching his head, Andy closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Maybe a cold shower was the best way forward in this case.
He heard footsteps on the stairs. Peter after a glass of water perhaps. Or he might even have calmed down enough to want to continue their conversation. When the door was pushed open and a cold draft undercut the warmth in the lounge, Andy turned his head, the question on his lips.
Whatever he'd been expecting, what he most definitely wasn't expecting was to see his inspector standing in the doorway of the living room stark-bollock naked with an erection a porn star would have been proud of wearing only an indignant expression on his face.
"Are you coming to bed or what?"
Andy stared, eyes wide, mouth open. Words were not possible. His one and only conscious thought had one syllable and no vowels. The best he could manage was a passable goldfish impression.
He swallowed. "Um...."
Peter rolled his eyes. "If we don't do something soon one of us is going to explode! Do yer want me or not?"
Andy managed to squeak , "Is that a trick question, lad?" His trousers - recently feeling nicely loose - were way too tight all of a sudden.
"Don't call me 'lad', it sounds illegal under the circumstances." The ghost of a smile played across Peter's mouth. "Well?"
"What was the question?"
"Andy! It's not exactly warm you know!"
"You could have fooled me."
"Are you coming or not? And don't, before you make any kind of crack."
"Wasn't even considering it." He wasn't sure he could stand up and not embarrass himself. Then again, Peter was standing in front of him wearing nothing at all. "Look, Sunbeam... are yer sure?"
"No," Peter taunted gently, "this is for Mrs Bazely, the cat obsessive who lives next door. Yes! I'm sure! Now get up those stairs and get your kit off!"
"Jesus, Peter, I haven't come like that since 1979!"
Laughing, Peter stretched out next to his boss - his partner and lover - and reached out to run his fingers through Andy's hair. They were both panting for breath, frankly stunned by the desire they'd unleashed between them.
It had been building for years and its release had been fast, almost brutal. So very different from being with a woman.
Turning onto his side to face Peter, Andy leaned in for a slow kiss, oddly hesitant after what they'd just done.
"Don't go all shy on me now," Peter teased gently.
"Sorry, Petal. Just... don't think I ever actually expected it to happen, yer know? And now it has...."
"You can't regret it. Even if we never do this again...."
"God, don't say that. It was bad enough I couldn't have you when I didn't know what I was missing. Now I do know - think I'd go insane."
"You're not gonna have to live without me, Andy. Not now."
Andy smiled broadly, touching Peter's shoulder, stroking along his arm. "In your own time, Sunbeam. No rush."
The smile was returned. "Thanks."
Peter turned over, shifting until his back was pressed against Andy's chest. One arm came around him and he linked their fingers tightly. The last thing he was aware of was a kiss in his hair and the whispered words, 'I love you, Sunbeam', before he fell asleep.
It was Andy's voice that woke him rather than the phone ringing.
He caught the final snippet of conversation, "...we'll be there in twenty minutes. No, don't bother, I'll rouse him," before Andy hung up and turned back to drop a kiss to his shoulder.
"Sorry, Petal. They've found John Hobbs' body in the grounds of the church in Stenton."
Groaning softly, Peter crawled out from under the duvet and hesitated. Then he remembered - his clothes were in the other room.
With a wry smile at Andy, who was pulling a warm, light-coloured sweater out of a drawer, he went off to get dressed.
Dalziel had expected some post-coital tension between them but in fact it was the opposite. Always comfortable in each other's presence it seemed now they were just as comfortable in each other's space. Peter's hand on his shoulder as he reached around to grab his coat, the touch to the back of his neck as the stepped out of the front door, at once casual and at the same time incredibly erotic.
He wondered briefly if it was obvious to anyone seeing them and knew he'd get his answer as soon as they stepped out of the car at the crime scene.
And he did. The expression on Wield's face as they approached the taped-off area just outside the church was inspiring. In particular, Peter was rewarded with a rare, genuine smile.
Dr Brown was already there doing the preliminary analysis, and the ever-present Lateef was crouched on the other side, paying very close attention to what she was saying.
Exhausted after just a couple of hours' sleep, Peter hung back, watching the smooth transition between the personal and the professional as Dalziel started to ask all the right questions of the pathologist and his overtly keen DC.
Lateef, Peter realised as he looked on, was immaculately dressed where as he and Andy were both in warm jumpers and casual trousers and even Wieldy was wearing jeans.
Wield gave voice to the question in his head.
"Doesn't he ever sleep?"
Peter glanced at the man beside him and shrugged. "I was just thinking the same thing."
"I was wondering if he were the only one. Not sleeping."
"Stop right there." He mirrored Wield's almost-cheeky expression.
"Wieldy!" His master's voice held a note of warning and he started towards the scene.
"Stop bothering my inspector and go inform the brother, Paul. Let me know how he takes it."
"Get some sleep. I want to see you bright and early at the office. And bring us some decent coffee in, I'm sick of the sludge the serve in the canteen." Andy looked around. There was nothing more they could do for now. SOCO had the area covered and there was no point in disturbing the village until the morning. "Come on, Peter, let's get back to bed."
No one batted an eyelid.
They got in two hours after leaving. In another hour's time the sun would be rising. Standing on the landing, they looked at one another longingly.
"I should... get some sleep," Peter said, unconvincingly.
"You should, Sunbeam. You stressing yourself too much as it is. Your doctor's going to have my testicles on a rope if she finds out I've been keeping you up late and working you too hard." With a soft sigh he added, "Go on with you."
Then he side-stepped Peter, heading for the bathroom.
He was tired enough himself, he decided as he brushed his teeth and took a piss. He turned off the light in the hall as he went into the darkness of his bedroom and closed the door.
"Figured I'd be just as comfortable in your bed," Peter's voice informed him from out of the dark.
Andy was glad that the beaming grin on his face was invisible to his younger lover. It would have been embarrassing.
Folding his clothes in a hurry, Andy climbed back into bed, spooning up into the warm patch Peter was creating.
It was wonderful. Better than wonderful.
"And you can put that away - I need my beauty sleep!"
Andy's laughter filled the room as he turned over to sleep instead on his back.